Many different articles and classes teach you what you SHOULD be doing during early labor, active labor, transition labor, and pushing (including our own). Still, sometimes, it’s nice to know what you should NOT be doing during labor to avoid unnecessary interventions and outcomes.
My 7 Tips on What Expecting Mamas Should Not Do During Labor:
1. Do NOT Over Exert Yourself
Many women get super excited when they start feeling those first contractions. They want to jump up and get things going! I don’t blame them. However, they don’t know that resting is as important as movement when things really get started. Yes, being upright and frequently changing positions helps with your comfort and promotes better positioning of the baby (which can, in turn, help speed things up). However, periods of rest are equally as important. Since labor can take many hours and sometimes days, you don’t want to burn out before reaching the end.1 This is why resting in between periods of activity is the best thing to do for your mind and body.
2. Do NOT Get to the Hospital Too Soon
If you are having a home birth, no worries! However, if you are having a hospital birth or a birth center birth, you don’t want to get there too early since you can get sent home. You want to wait as long as you can while in active labor before you start driving to the hospital. Why? If you get there too soon, the hospital staff may send you back home, which is pretty frustrating to go back and forth. I’ve heard of families being sent back home three times before they finally get admitted! But even worse, the hospital could keep you there even when it’s too early for you to stay. They could decide to give you Pitocin or break your water to help speed up the labor process.
Doing these things early in labor increases your chances of having a C-section.2 Unfortunately, a few clients had this happen to them, so I can speak from experience. Ensure you don’t go to the hospital too soon to avoid being sent home and unnecessary interventions. Read: When to Go to the Hospital When You’re in Labor.
3. Do NOT Feel Stuck
Don’t feel like you have to stay in one position (unless you want to) when you’re in labor. Sometimes, the hospital staff will want you to stay in bed in a particular position because they want a good, continuous reading of your baby’s heart rate throughout labor.
That can be incredibly uncomfortable for you and can cause your labor to become more painful and even cause your labor to stall out. If you want to move into another position because you’re uncomfortable, go for it! It’s your body and labor, so listen to your instincts and do what feels best. The nurses will work around you and keep moving the monitor until your baby is back on the monitor.
If you’re unsure of what to do in each phase of labor, here are some great positions to help keep things moving:
4. Do NOT Hyperventilate or Hold Your Breath
You might think that breathing should come naturally during labor and shouldn’t be something you must think about. You breathe in and out every day, so what’s to think about, right? Unfortunately, that is (most of the time) untrue when it comes to labor.
Some mothers can get worked up and freaked out during labor, which causes them to over-breathe or breathe too rapidly. This can cause dizziness, numbness, tingling of the hands, feet, and/or face, and even fainting.
The type of breathing you want to do is abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing.3 This breathing type is beneficial because it helps with relaxation and stress relief and oxygenates deep tissues, strengthening the diaphragm.
You also want to ensure that you aren’t holding your breath during labor. The oxygen you are breathing in also gives oxygen to your baby. If you hold your breath, your baby’s heart rate can start plummeting, which will then cause your medical team to panic and want to get baby out immediately.
We all just need to calm down and breathe. Those big, deep breaths are best for you and your baby. Proper breathing helps you manage stress and provides the best oxygenation for you and your baby. It prepares your diaphragm to get ready for pushing a baby out.
5. Do NOT Look at the Clock
If a laboring mama has decided to have a natural birth, she can be so focused on her breathing, relaxing her muscles, and everything she’s doing to progress that she might not even pay attention to the clock. (Which is good!). If a laboring mom has decided to have an epidural, she can take a nap or talk to her friends and family. Or watching a movie so she doesn’t even think to look at the clock. (Which is also good!).
However, if you’re wondering why things are taking so long (whether you have an epidural or not), looking at a clock never helps. Looking at the clock will only discourage you. If it’s only been a few minutes and you thought it was an hour or more, you could get pretty upset that baby isn’t here yet. So don’t look at the clock. Baby will be here soon.
6. Do NOT Be Bullied
You should NEVER feel like you are being bullied during your labor and baby’s birth. If anyone pushes you to do something you don’t want to do and makes you feel rushed and uncomfortable, or if they are unsupportive of your wants and needs, stand up for yourself!
As I always say, this is your body, your baby, and your experience. YOU are paying the facility fees and the people around you, so you should only be treated with kindness and respect. You’re the boss! The customer is always right, right?! And you should feel happy about your experience because these moments will live with you forever. So don’t settle for anything less.
Note: If you do not like your nurse or the doctor on-call taking care of you, you can always have your partner talk to the nurse’s station. Speak to the charge nurse and get a new nurse and/or a new doctor. Don’t feel bad about it! They should feel bad that they aren’t giving you the supportive experience you deserve! And if you do not feel like you will have the strength to advocate for yourself, look into hiring a doula.
7. Do NOT Fight the Process
I’ve had clients that have completely rocked their labor and baby’s birth. Watching them go through their birth experience so seamlessly made me question. What were they doing differently than other women I have worked with who have struggled?
When I asked what they told themselves during their labors, they said, “I kept telling myself to surrender my body to the experience and allow the labor to open my body and not fight the process. I wanted my labor to be quick, so I let my body do what it needed to do.” Powerful.
In labor, you will get cues from your body; pay attention to them. If a new position still doesn’t feel right to you after a few contractions, change positions. Or you feel like you need to rest, rest. Even if you think touch, massage, or a bath will help you get through things, ask for it. If you feel an overwhelming urge to do something, do it. Remember to remain confident in your ability to do this because you can do it. Don’t fight it! You got this, mama!